The Scalpel and the Probe


Laundy Scalpel and Surgical Probe, circa 1846
On loan from E. R. Squibb and Sons to the Boston Medical Library

This Laundy scalpel and probe were the surgical instruments used by John Collins Warren at the first public operation employing ether at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846.   Dr. Warren presented the instruments along with his card to Josiah Johnson Hawes, in gratitude for his photography of some of the earliest anesthesia operations.

According to an anecdote by Albert N. Blodgett delivered at Ether Day on October 16, 1906, "At the time of the first operation Mr. Hawes was invited to be present for the purpose of photographing the scene of the operation. He was, however, unfortunately, not accustomed to the sight of blood, became nauseated and was obliged to leave the amphitheater with the picture still untaken. At the conclusion of the operation, which had been entirely successful and had demonstrated the efficiency of ether, Dr. Warren sought out Mr. Hawes and presented him with the scalpel and probe used at the operation, together with his card."